30 September 2010


Today, the first day of our Utah trip, has been one marked by little and large kindnesses. I’m not going to make this post an annotated list, but for someone who lives her life tending toward a jaundiced view of humanity, the interactions of the day – servers to truck drivers to welcome center attendants to hotel clerks – have given me pause.

We were up at 5:00 and, watching the gates close behind us, pulled out of the driveway onto Country Club Road at 6:10. Our first stop? The Huddle House at US25 and I-20, a whopping nearly 20 miles. At that rate we’ll be arrive in St George about this time next year. Our breakfast, though, was great, the kitchen at home having been cleaned – and closed – the night before. Poor Tal.

It was an easy travel day. Augusta before 7:30 and Atlanta after 9:00. We travelled through bands of heavy rain intermingled with “teasings” of blue sky during that first leg of the trip, the tall buildings on the Atlanta skyline peeking out through the mist. Birmingham was a bit of a challenge with the interstate under improvement. Through the afternoon on US78 (aka Future I-22, interstate quality already), we passed through iron land, now reclaimed and gently rounded, displaying no population to speak of within view of our route. The skies cleared to a brilliant blue. We fueled in Jasper AL, had a picnic lunch at the Mississippi welcome center, gave a nod to Elvis as Tupelo went by on our left. The pleasures of a road trip!

Given that I failed to take into account the time change when making our hotel reservations, we arrived in New Albany MS (birthplace of William C Faulkner on 25 September 1897) by 2:30. Turning that error to good, we rested for a time and then set out for a walk recommended by the desk clerk.

New Albany is two miles form US78 and, for good and ill, is on the Tallachatchie River (of "Ode to Billie Joe" fame). In a civic feat with what I would imagine to have been incalculable psychological and political costs, the little town took advantage of the development that came with the highway’s improvement to interstate standard and built a sportsplex (ballfields, equestrian center, playgrounds) at the interstate and connected it to town with the Tallachatchie Trails – three of them, all intertwined: walking/hiking, bike, an 18-hole disc course. The whole development is known as the Park Along the River. I probably don’t need to say that we enjoyed our walk.

That’s the good. The ill has to do with the river’s rising above the levees and flooding the whole area on occasion, which it did earlier this year. All has been made well in the interim and the river is a placid, shallow, pale green stream, the dried brush in the trees and the sand dune-like piles of silt plowed from the paths a reminder of a very different river.

Day One
Four States: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi
472 miles

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